It’s Almost time to Launch! – Tuesday June 16, 2015:

I hope you all share my excitement that we’re only a few days from the 2015 James River Batteau Festival.  Not much in the way of problems or changes from previous emails but did want to bring a couple of things to everone’s attention before everyone shuts off their computers for the week.
 
River Levels –  I’ve heard many Batteau captains speak longlingly of their desire for a “low water year”, I believe they’ve gotten what they asked for.  Currently (Tue AM) the flow level in Scottsville is 2020 cfs and there is no signficant chance of anything other than a thunderstorm between today and Saturday’s launch of the festival. Predictions are of course just intelligent guesses, and weather is unpredictable, but I believe it pretty safe to say the river level will drop significantly before Saturday and then continue to drop until at least mid week during the festival.  My personal feeling is that levels in the 1300 – 1500 cfs are certainly a realistic possibility, I don’t see it being likely to get to the historic festival low rates of 700 cfs which we saw in 1999 and approached a couple of other years.
 
So for those who haven’t experienced these low river levels, it means that there will certainly be some places where additional challenges will be before us.  Choosing the wrong places to go and being granted forgiveness by the river gods won’t be happening.  Choose the right places and we’ll get through most of them fine and some we’ll still be out dragging the boats as we’ve done many many times in the past.  At Goosby the batteaux will look like we’re in a pin ball machine as we work back and forth trying to miss as many rocks as possible.
 
Low water years mean a lot more in and out of the boats dragging off rocks, which obviously increases the chances of injury.  Each boat needs to make every effort to see than no crew have their week ruined by injury. Each situation is different, but everyone needs to be making sure that nobody gets in a position to be pinned between a rock and boat period, no exceptions!!!  Never should anyone step foot into the James without shoes on period, no exceptions!!  Nobody in front of the boat regardless of how stuck you are and how careful they try to be period, no exceptions!!  Those with years on the river know there are many other situations which arise during low water  years, each one needs to be approached from the angle of being certain nobody get’s hurt.  The festival has injuries every year, but thankfully they are almost all minor and we need to keep this trend of avoiding major injury.
 
Cooperation between batteaux crews, canoeists and kayakers is always something which always exists without being talked about.  But in a low water year we need to be sure that we keep an eye on the boats around us and help out when needed.  Depending on how low it gets and if needed we’ll discuss which boat is the last on the river and they’ll need to be sure nobody’s left in distress.  Some boats like to leave later than others (Rivertime!!!!) but it’s not fair to expect them to be responsible for pushing all other boats off the rocks, they’ll just need to be sure that if someone’s really stuck they won’t be left alone without help.  Keep track of where you are on the James River Batteau Trail Maps (thanks Holt and Bill Trout) and in the very Worst Case Scenario, you’re never more than a few hours walk on the RR tracks to civilization.
 
Water Release –  Given the expected water levels, the release we request from AEP and Reusens Dam is more important than usual.  I have had multiple communications with the individual responsible for making this happen within AEP and I have no reason to believe it won’t happen.  But it is not a 100% guarantee, last year the expected release didn’t happen on Saturday and we struggled some, and in some previous low water years there hasn’t been enough water flowing into Reusens to give us a good release.  But assuming nothing goes wrong we should get water to help us on Saturday and Sunday so we’ll experience artificially increased river flow but then the rest of the week we’re on our own.
 
Stapleton –  I visited this site this AM and as previously discussed with the landowner, space is pretty limited and we’re again pinned pretty close to the river.  Wed  AM Sedalia and Morning Dew crews will weed eat paths down to the riverbank and also do some mowing.  We need to try to fully utilize the space available, and part of this is extending the camping area as far on each end of the field as possible.  Some boats need to try to stop at the top of the field and some at the bottom and then campers need to setup in a way we can get vehicles all the way to both ends of the fields.  Last year this didn’t happen and campers basically cut off access to areas which could have been used by others to camp.  Since many campers won’t see this email we all need to try to gently see that common sense prevails and everyone has space to camp.
 
Short of some major change this will be my last communication prior to the festival.  I sincerely hope that everyone has a great week and I look forward to seeing all of you on the Old Timey James.
 
Ralph
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